x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

The Ali Column: How to preserve our pretty flamingos

Why we must not forget to preserve our natural environment in the UAE.

My role at the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi as the Environment Awareness ambassador gave me so much insight into my beloved country's ecological scene.

During my work for EAD we cooperated on developing an environmental documentary on the UAE, in which I learnt about many subjects, from endangered animals and birds, carbon emissions, the negative impact of plastic on the environment, to exploring Bu Tinah island (the first marine biosphere reserve in the region to be recognised by Unesco), the mangroves, the coral reefs and more.

One of the editions we produced was on the flamingos in the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. Flamingos use our protected areas, such as the reserve, which was declared a protected area in 1998 and is the home to almost 240 species of birds and other animals. This area is their "home" due to its water, food and safety.

What's most fascinating about them is how similar they are to humans. According to Dr Salim Javed, scientist at EAD, flamingos are "truly a nomadic species" with "nomadic behaviour". They travel in groups over large areas and over short periods of time.

When I found out that my country not only attracts many tourists from all over the world but also their birds - for example, from Russia and the Arctic region, this made me so happy and proud. Flamingos were discovered in the region for the first time in 1922 and, ever since their discovery, our wildlife experts have become interested in monitoring their welfare. These professionals have emphasised the necessity for more nature and its preservation.

However, the organisations that are close to the reserve should realise its importance to the country, the population and the animals. The Musaffah Highway, the neighbouring industries, the labour camps, Bu Al Syayeef and the Mussaffah Channel are all located around it putting pressure on the flamingos' existence.

The thing is: flamingos don't depend on one single site. Therefore, they need a network of sites that can provide a suitable habitat both for flamingos and many of the other birds in terms of food, nest and shelter. These need to be secured and they can continue to come to their "home".

We should not forget that we are the only ones who can provide them with that security and protection. After all, it is one of the duties that God gave us. By learning to appreciate this we can continue to grow together, see more beautiful and healthy animals and maintain our biodiversity and natural heritage.